Re: Who coined the term "3D printing"?

From: Jim McMahon <>
Date: Wed, 22 Feb 2017 20:52:45 -0500

With 200 Inktronic Solid wax continuous inkjet printers were in operation
for the Department of Defense for many years from early 1960's and then a
commercial Inktronic printer was distributed in late 1966 by Teletype Corp
don't you think the concept of printing 1/4 tall characters (Japanese,
Roman, English) as well as maps every time the paper feed failed may have
led to this term "3D Printing". Has anyone ever heard of this solid wax
printer? Please speak up. This thread has gone silent since I mentioned

On Feb 19, 2017 4:35 AM, "Jim McMahon" <> wrote:

> Marshall:
> The era of the 70's and 80's was during the introduction of the personal
> computer to the world. Computers were designed to manipulate data when
> first invented. These were numerical calculators and had nothing to do with
> 3D printing. As a matter of fact printing had been around for ever before
> computers were introduced but it wasn't until printing became automated,
> first mechanically and then using matrix printers that printing was
> associated with computers. Television were introduced in the 1920's but was
> not more common until the 1940's. Displaying text on televisions (teletext)
> began in the 1970's. Teletext is the display of characters and shapes on a
> TV screen. But the Teletype industry had been displaying text on TV's long
> before this. I would guess it was back to the 50's. My point is that text
> was first printed and then displayed. Shapes were displayed next. But
> printing started out with mechanical English character printing and then to
> other language characters and eventually to 2D shapes which led to 3D
> graphics images in 1961 at Boeing. The next local step was to print complex
> shapes in 2D first and then in 3D. It is hard to imagine it took until 1988
> for Terry Wholer's to be the first to say or write 3D printing.
> I propose that the idea of 3D printing emerged from the printing industry
> that printed characters with inks that didn't soak into the medium were
> first to discuss it. In the 1950's continuous inkjet printing was
> introduced. In 1958 electrostatic deflection of inkjet droplets to allow
> the formation of characters was invented. Magnetic core memory was used to
> store character bit data and many characters were defined for printing. The
> US government had the need for printed material that could be easily
> erased. Teletype printers were invented in 1908 but it wasn't until 1966
> the first inkjet Teletype printer, the Inktronic was introduced. It printed
> full page documents with solid wax inks (Teletype patent # 3715219) that
> had to be heated to achieve inkjet viscosity. These printers printed
> multiple character font text on paper and there were complaints when
> Braille was printed that the characters came off the paper. Let's call them
> 3D braille characters because by their very nature that had to be touch
> sensitive. This was in the mid 1960's. I think some research needs to done
> to find documentation to support this idea that 3D printing began in the
> 1960's, before computers and using bit mapped data. I think I will ask Ed
> Sharpe at SMECC.
> He wrote this:
> *Ed Sharpe Asks:* The Inktronic ..... is there a good concise history on
> it out there!?!?
> > it is reputed to be the predecessor to all ink stream/jet printers
> > Thanks Ed Sharpe archivist for SMECC
> *Jim Haynes tell us: *Well, not really, because the principle of
> operation of the Inktronic is completely different from that of all the
> later ink jet printers.
> It was invented by Chuck Winston, who had the idea of electrostatically
> deflecting droplets of ink to draw characters on paper. The first patent
> is 3,060,429 filed for in May 1958 and issued in October 1962. This
> shows the principle using one nozzle writing on a moving paper tape. I
> saw that demonstrated in the summer of 1958. If there had been a market
> for a high speed tape printer it might have been a real winner.
> By the early 1960s there was a demonstration model of a page printer
> which used a magnetic core memory to store the bit patterns. The
> demonstration model was housed in a big wooden cube and had the ability
> to print Japanese as well as Roman. I'm not sure where this was shown,
> but places like the Armed Forces Communications-Electronics Assn.
> conventions are likely. This used 40 nozzles to print 80 columns on
> 8 1/2" wide paper.
> In the same time AT&T had a contract for what was called Long Lines
> Project 176. This was a communication system for a government agency
> that involved 100 WPM TTY, 2400 WPM TTY and facsimile, all encrypted
> and the stations installed in secret locations. The high speed ASR
> set provided for transmission and reception on paper tape and printing
> using Inktronic printers. Magnetic core memories were used to hold
> the character patterns for the printers. The sets were extensively
> RF shielded and also shielded for sound emanations. Deliveries started
> perhaps in late 1966. The printers caused considerable hair-tearing -
> they pretty much had to be hand-tweaked to get acceptable printing.
> One problem was that droplets came out of the nozzles in different
> sizes, so that the deflection sensitivity varied from one droplet to
> the next. The ink had to be heated to a certain temperature to control
> its viscosity.
> In the same time frame Hewlett-Packard produced a strip chart recorder
> using electrostatic deflection of ink; but only in one dimension. I
> believe H-P used ultrasonic pulsing on the ink supply to help produce
> more uniform droplet size.
> The commercial Inktronic was under development as the 176 project was
> winding up. This was to be limited to 1200 wpm and used a magnetic
> core read-only memory to hold the character patterns. The main product
> was a receive-only printer, but a very few KSR sets were produced.
> These used the same keyboard as the Model 37/38, another disgrace to
> have such a crummy keyboard in such an expensive machine.
> These printers used 40 nozzles to print 80 columns. The same deflection
> voltages were applied to all 40 positions in parallel, with a valving
> electrode selecting which nozzle was to print at any time. On the whole
> they worked well when first put into service and went downhill from there.
> Paper dust would accumulate on the electrodes - naturally, since there
> were high voltages to attract the particles. Nozzles would get clogged.
> It was an exacting job to clean nozzles and deflection electrodes without
> damaging them. Maybe someone who worked on these machines in Bell System
> service can tell us more about the maintenance issue.
> On Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM, Marshall Burns <>
> wrote:
>> Hi RP World,
>> I used to think that the term “3D printing” originated at
>> MIT for describing their process that was later commercialized by Soligen
>> and Z Corp. Elly Sachs wrote a paper about the process that was published
>> in June 1990 with the title, “Three-Dimensional Printing: Ceramic tooling
>> and parts from a CAD model.” In my 1993 book, I applied the term only to
>> that technology.
>> However, I have now become aware of two earlier uses of
>> the term:
>> * Terry Wohlers wrote an article for the May 1988 issue
>> of “Computer Graphics World” with the title, “3d printing: From CADD model
>> to prototype.”
>> * Norman Kinzie has told me in recent correspondence that
>> he coined the term and used it in the title of a document he distributed in
>> early 1988 or in 1987. My records show a document by Kinzie with the title
>> “introduction to: Three-Dimensional Printing” and dated June 2, 1988.
>> Unfortunately, I no longer have the paper files with that document. In any
>> cases, it is dated after Wohler’s article. Kinzie tells me that he has in
>> his possession an earlier version of the document, dated April 27, 1988,
>> and that he believes there were versions prior to that but that he cannot
>> find them at this time. Since magazines usually come out in advance of
>> their cover dates, it is likely that Wohler’s article was on shelves prior
>> to the earliest available date of Kinzie’s document.
>> According to the above, it appears that the earliest
>> known use of the term “3D printing” was by Terry Wohlers. Does anyone have
>> any information to either support or refute that?
>> Regards,
>> Marshall
Received on Thu Feb 23 2017 - 03:52:55 EET

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